BBC: Research finds no proof that a virus is the cause of ME

Abstract and links for full paper here:
Media coverage Round up 1 here:
Patient organisation responses Round up 2 here:

Imperial College London News Release PDF: Imperial College London News Release XMRV

BBC: Research finds no proof that a virus is the cause of ME


Although a number of UK XMRV related studies have already been identified since the publication of the WPI study in Science, in October, this study co-authored by Prof Simon Wessely had not been publicly reported on.

Dr Jonathan Kerr, based at St. George’s University, London, is involved in several XMRV studies with Whittemore Peterson Institute researcher, Dr Judy Mikovits, and with others, including UK Dr Amalok Bansal and New York, Dr Derek Enlander.

According to an unofficial summary published by Dr Charles Shepherd on behalf of the ME Association following the APPG on ME meeting on 2 December:

“XMRV was discussed in some detail at the Medical Research Council Expert Group Workshop on November 19/20 where there were four UK researchers present who are actively involved in XMRV research:

• Dr Jonathan Stoye – National Institute for Medical Research
• Dr Kate Bishop – NIMR
• Dr Jonathan Kerr – St George’s Hospital
• Dr Suzanne Hagan – Glasgow Caledonian University

There are several other UK virologists involved with XMRV research as well – including Prof Greg Towers at University College London, whom CS recently met for an afternoon discussion.

So replication studies and other XMRV research is taking place, or is about to take place, here in the UK.

MERUK plus IRISH ME TRUST has just funded an XMRV replication study in Sweden.

The MEA Ramsay Research Fund has money available for UK studies – but money does not appear to be an immediate problem in the UK.

It looks as though there may even be some early results from replication studies before the end of the year.”

Was Dr Charles Shepherd aware of this Wessely/McClure study? Professor Chris Mathias of Imperial College London was listed as a participant in the MRC’s December CFS/ME Research Workshop.

Psychiatrist, Professor Simon Wessely, King’s College London, has been claiming since 2001 to have quit the field of CFS research.

On 20 September 2001, the Guardian published an article by Health Editor, Sarah Boseley:

In this exceedingly emotive piece of journalism, Ms Boseley had reported:

“Prof Wessely has quit the field – and is not the only professional to have ceased involvement with CFS.”
        Storm brews over ‘all in mind’ theory of ME, Guardian, 20 September 2001

Just a week later in the Guardian, Ms Boseley wrote:

“Simon Wessely, of the Department of Psychological Medicine at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s School of Medicine in London, is a former key figure in the study of ME/CFS who has felt the heat and largely backed out of the kitchen.” 
        A very modern epidemic, Guardian, 27 September 2001

More recently, in November 2006, the Group on Scientific Research into ME (GSRME) reported:

“[…] Wessely gave up the [CFS] research side of his work…”
        Report of the GSRME: Page 19, Section 3.2 Other Evidence We Received: Prof Simon Wessely

In November 2009, Professor Wessely wrote to an enquirer:

“…I also do very little these days around CFS – I still see patients every week, and I keep reasonably abreast of the literature, but it hasn’t been my main interest now for many years.” 

Since 2002, Professor Wessely has published around 30 papers and articles on CFS and is also an adviser on the design and execution of the MRC funded PACE Trial.


Click here for Archive for XMRV media coverage and related material


BBC News

Research finds no proof that a virus is the cause of ME

Tuesday 5 January 2010

By Michelle Roberts
Health reporter, BBC News

UK scientists say they can find no proof that a particular virus is the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or ME, contrary to recent claims.

The Imperial College London team say they want to share the findings as some patients are pinning their hopes on drugs to fight the virus called XMRV.

They analysed blood samples from 186 patients with CFS and found none had the virus, PLoS One journal reports.

Experts said the latest findings would be a bitter disappointment to many.

They said more trials were under way and when these report in coming months, scientists will be able to draw more firm conclusions.

Work in the US, published in Science, had found the retrovirus in 68 of 101 CFS patients.

The UK team say the conflict between the two studies might be down to differences between the patients enrolled or the way the research was conducted.

“We need to be extremely cautious until we know more”
        Dr Charles Shepherd, The ME Association

Or there might be different geographical types or strains of XMRV.

Regardless, they say potent antiretroviral drugs should not be used to treat CFS because there is not enough evidence that this is necessary or helpful.

The drugs may do more harm than good, they say.

Professor Myra McClure, one of the Imperial College London investigators, said: “We are confident that our results show there is no link between XMRV and chronic fatigue syndrome, at least in the UK.”

She said they had used extremely sensitive DNA testing methods, called polymerase chain reaction, to look for the virus.

“If it had been there, we would have found it.”


Co-author Professor Simon Wessely said the findings did not invalidate all previous research, some of which has shown that CFS can be triggered by other infectious agents, such as Epstein Barr Virus.

The charity Action for ME said it was disappointing to hear about these findings, but said no single small-scale study could be conclusive.

Dr Charles Shepherd, of The ME Association, said it was important to remain open-minded.

“We need to be extremely cautious until we know more. There has been enormous interest in this from patients.

“Some have been led into believing the cause and a test has been discovered and that treatment is just round the corner and that is not the case.

“Over the next few weeks and months we will have more results and then we can come to a conclusion.

“If it turns out that XMRV is important, we will have to start looking at whether it is worthwhile testing for it and treating it.”

Causes chronic fatigue and muscle pain
Impairs immune system
Does not improve with sleep
Affects more women than men
A controversial condition that some have doubted as a genuine physical illness